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Pioneer League (baseball)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pioneer League
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2024 Pioneer League season
ClassificationIndependent league
Founded1939 (85 years ago) (1939)
PresidentMike Shapiro
CommissionerHenry Hunter
No. of teams12
CountryUnited States
Most recent
Ogden Raptors (2023)
Most titlesBillings Mustangs (15)
Official websiteOfficial website

The Pioneer Baseball League (also known as simply the Pioneer League) is a professional baseball league based in the Western United States. It operates as one of four Major League Baseball (MLB) Partner Leagues in the American independent baseball league system without MLB team affiliations. The league is contested by twelve teams from the Northern California and Rocky Mountains regions, who play a regular season split into two halves. The top two teams at the end of each half qualify for a postseason tournament that determines the overall champion.

The Pioneer League was established in 1939 as a Class C minor league consisting of six teams from Idaho and Utah. It later expanded to Montana as part of a failed effort in the 1950s to become a third major league rivalling the American and National leagues, complicated by competition with the Pacific Coast League. By the time it was reclassified as a Rookie league in 1964, only four teams in Idaho remained. Gradually, it returned to Montana and Utah, and expanded into Colorado and the Canadian province of Alberta by 1974, and since then has consistently had eight or more teams competing. In 2021, the league became independent, and ceased all MLB team affiliations, reorganizing as an MLB Partner League representing the Western United States market. An expansion into California followed in 2024.

As of the 2024 season, four teams from Montana, three from Colorado, two from California and Idaho each, and one from Utah compete in the Pioneer League. Nineteen franchises have competed in the league across its 85-year history, with the Missoula PaddleHeads, a current team that joined as the Pocatello Cardinals in the inaugural season, being the longest-tenured. The Ogden Raptors are the current champions, while the Billings Mustangs, also a current team, have won the most championships (15).

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The Pioneer League began in 1939 with six teams in Idaho and Utah, operating at the Class C level. The original six teams were the Boise Pilots, Lewiston Indians, Ogden Reds, Pocatello Cardinals, Salt Lake City Bees, and Twin Falls Cowboys. With players in short supply due to World War II, the league suspended operations for the 1943 through 1945 seasons.

In 1948, the league expanded by adding two teams in Montana; the Billings Mustangs and Great Falls Electrics. In these early years, teams in the league either operated independently or were affiliated with Major League Baseball (MLB) or Pacific Coast League (PCL) parent clubs, as the PCL was attempting to grow into a third major league (a bid that ultimately failed). When MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers displaced the PCL's Hollywood Stars in 1958, the Stars relocated and became the "new" Salt Lake City Bees, remaining in the PCL and taking away the Pioneer League's largest market.

By 1959, the Pioneer League was down to six teams; Billings and Great Falls along with the Boise Braves, Idaho Falls Russets, Missoula Timberjacks, and Pocatello Athletics. The league operated at the Class A level for one year (1963), before changing to Rookie league in 1964, when there were only four teams in the league; the Idaho Falls Angels, Magic Valley Cowboys, Pocatello Chiefs, and Treasure Valley Cubs. By 1978, the league had again grown to eight teams — Billings and Idaho Falls along with the Butte Copper Kings, Calgary Cardinals, Great Falls Giants, Helena Phillies, Lethbridge Dodgers, and Medicine Hat Blue Jays. With the exception of 1986 (when there were six teams), there have been at least eight teams in the league since then.

In 2016, total league attendance was 616,686,[1] down slightly from the 2015 total of 633,622.[2]

In its final years as an MLB-affiliated league, the Pioneer League was one of two "Rookie Advanced" minor leagues along with the Appalachian League. As such, it occupied the second-lowest rung in the minor league ladder. Although classified as a Rookie league, the level of play was slightly higher than that of the two "complex" Rookie leagues, the Gulf Coast League and Arizona League. Unlike the complex leagues, Pioneer League teams charged admission and sold concessions. It was almost exclusively the first fully professional league in which many players competed; most of the players had just been signed out of high school. It was a short-season league that competed from late June (when Major League teams signed players whom they selected in the amateur draft) to early September.

After the 2018 season, the Helena Brewers relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they now play as the Rocky Mountain Vibes.[3]

As the start of the 2020 season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic before being cancelled on June 30,[4][5] making the 2019 season the league's last as an MLB-affiliated league of Minor League Baseball.

In conjunction with the reorganization of Minor League Baseball in 2021, the Pioneer League was converted to an independent baseball league and was granted status as an MLB Partner League.[6] The reconfigured league continued with the same franchises using the same identities, with the exception of the Orem Owlz who relocated to Windsor, Colorado, as the Northern Colorado Owlz.[6][7] The Boise Hawks also joined the Pioneer League in 2021 after moving from the Northwest League.[8]

The Pioneer League announced a five-year naming rights deal between the league and ticket vendor TicketSmarter that would have the league go as The Pioneer Baseball League presented by TicketSmarter starting in time for the 2022 season.[9]

On April 10, 2024, Kelsie Whitmore signed with the Oakland Ballers of the Pioneer League.[10] She became the first woman to play for that league later that year. On June 6, 2024, she became the first female player to start a Pioneer League game. In that game she struck out one batter.[11]


Mike Shapiro is the current president of the Pioneer Baseball League, having been a senior executive in a wide range of professional sports including baseball, golf, basketball and hockey.[12]

Jim McCurdy is the commissioner[12] and a past president of the Pioneer Baseball League. McCurdy received his BBA from the University of Houston in 1970 and his JD from the University of Texas School of Law in 1974. He mediated the restructure of Minor League Baseball's governing structure in 1992 and was an inaugural member of the MiLB board of trustees from 1992 to 1994. In 1993, he was appointed by the president of MiLB to serve on the Professional Baseball Executive Council. McCurdy was elevated to the position of league president in 1994, replacing Ralph Nelles who was the president from 1975 to 1993. McCurdy also teaches sports law courses at Gonzaga University School of Law and the University of San Diego School of Law. His publications include: Sports Law: Cases & Materials (with Ray Yasser, C. Peter Goplerud, and Maureen Weston) (7th ed. LexisNexis 2011),[13] Thunder on the Road from Seattle to Oklahoma City: Going from NOPA to ZOPA in the NBA, in Legal Issues in American Basketball ch. IV (Lewis Kurlantzick ed., Academica Press 2011),[13] and, The Fundamental Nature of Professional Sports Leagues, Constituent Clubs, & Mutual Duties to Protect Market Opportunities: Organized Baseball Case Study, in Legal Issues in Professional Baseball ch. IV (Lewis Kurlantzick ed., Academica Press 2005).[13]


Current teams

Team Location Founded Joined Venue Cap.
Billings Mustangs Billings, MT 1948 Dehler Park 3,071
Boise Hawks Boise, ID[a] 1969 2021 Memorial Stadium 3,452
Glacier Range Riders Kalispell, MT 2022 Glacier Bank Park 2,500
Grand Junction Jackalopes Grand Junction, CO 1978 Suplizio Field 7,014
Great Falls Voyagers Great Falls, MT 1948 Centene Stadium 3,001
Idaho Falls Chukars Idaho Falls, ID 1940 Melaleuca Field 3,400
Missoula PaddleHeads Missoula, MT 1939 Ogren Park at Allegiance Field 3,500
Northern Colorado Owlz Windsor, CO 1978 4Rivers Equipment Stadium 2,500
Oakland Ballers Oakland, CA 2024 Raimondi Park 4,000[15]
Ogden Raptors Ogden, UT 1977 Lindquist Field 8,262
Rocky Mountain Vibes Colorado Springs, CO 1974 1977 UCHealth Park 8,500
Yolo High Wheelers[16] Davis, CA[17] 2024 Dobbins Stadium 3,500
  • List of franchises (1939–present)
  • Bold text indicates current teams

Timeline of franchises (1939–present)

Yolo High WheelersOakland BallersGlacier Range RidersBoise HawksNorthern Colorado OwlzOrem OwlzOrem OwlzHelena BrewersHelena BrewersHelena BrewersGrand Junction JackalopesGrand Junction JackalopesGrand Junction JackalopesGrand Junction JackalopesGrand Junction JackalopesRocky Mountain VibesHelena BrewersMedicine Hat Blue JaysMedicine Hat A'sOgden RaptorsPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsSalt Lake City TrappersCalgary ExposCalgary CardinalsCaldwell CubsCaldwell CubsMissoula TimberjacksGreat Falls VoyagersGreat Falls VoyagersGreat Falls VoyagersGreat Falls VoyagersGreat Falls ElectricsGreat Falls ElectricsGreat Falls ElectricsGreat Falls ElectricsGreat Falls ElectricsBillings MustangsIdaho Falls ChukarsIdaho Falls ChukarsIdaho Falls ChukarsIdaho Falls ChukarsIdaho Falls ChukarsIdaho Falls ChukarsIdaho Falls ChukarsIdaho Falls ChukarsIdaho Falls ChukarsIdaho Falls ChukarsMagic Valley CowboysTwin Falls CowboysSalt Lake City BeesSalt Lake City BeesSalt Lake City BeesMissoula PaddleHeadsMissoula PaddleHeadsLethbridge Black DiamondsLethbridge Black DiamondsPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsLethbridge DodgersLethbridge DodgersOgden DodgersOgden DodgersPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsPocatello, Idaho minor league baseball teamsOgden RedsLewiston IndiansBoise BravesBoise PilotsBoise YankeesBoise Pilots


League champions have been determined by different means since the Pioneer League's formation in 1939. There were postseason playoffs when the league operated as Class C (1939–1962), except for 1939 and 1956, and for the three years during World War II when the league did not operate. In the league's one year as Class A (1963), there were also postseason playoffs. After becoming a Rookie league in 1964, the league champions were simply the regular season pennant winners through 1977. Since 1978, postseason playoffs have again been held to determine a league champion.[18][19]


  1. ^ Memorial Stadium has a Boise postal address,[14] but is located within unincorporated Ada County, Idaho.


  1. ^ "Pioneer League: Attendance (2016)". Minor League Baseball. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  2. ^ "Pioneer League: Attendance (2015)". Minor League Baseball. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
  3. ^ "New Name on Tap for Colorado Springs Pioneer League Team". Ballpark Digest. August Publications. June 13, 2018. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  4. ^ "A Message From Pat O'Conner". Minor League Baseball. March 13, 2020. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  5. ^ "2020 Minor League Baseball Season Shelved". Minor League Baseball. June 30, 2020. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Pioneer League named MLB Partner League". Major League Baseball. November 30, 2020. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  7. ^ Kirk, Alexander (November 30, 2020). "Orem Owlz announce move to Windsor in 2021". 9 News. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  8. ^ Kloppenburg, Katie (December 9, 2020). "Boise Hawks plan to join Pioneer Baseball League in 2021". Idaho News 6. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  9. ^ "Pioneer League, TicketSmarter unveil naming-rights deal". Ballpark Digest. August Publications. January 26, 2022. Retrieved January 29, 2022.
  10. ^ "Oakland Ballers sign team's first female player". April 10, 2024.
  11. ^ Lockard, Melissa. "Kelsie Whitmore first woman to start Pioneer League game" – via
  12. ^ a b "Pioneer League staff". Pioneer League. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  13. ^ a b c "James R. McCurdy". Thomas Jefferson School of Law. December 11, 2015. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  14. ^ "Memorial Stadium A-Z". Retrieved March 7, 2024.
  15. ^ "Ballers Unveil Full Vision for Raimondi Park". May 2, 2024. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ "2024 Pioneer League Schedule". Pioneer League.
  17. ^ Reichard, Kevin. "New for 2024: Oakland Ballers". Ballpark Digest. August Publications.
  18. ^ "Pioneer League Champions". Pioneer League. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  19. ^ Johnson, Lloyd; Wolff, Miles (2007). Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (third ed.). Baseball America. ISBN 9781932391176.

External links

This page was last edited on 20 June 2024, at 05:18
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